Saturday, February 27, 2010

Badael-Alternatives بدائل

In Badael yesterday: My editorial, "In war as in peace". Rameh Hamiyeh reports from the Fakiha women's coop, and he also tells us about one of their specialties: smoked trout.,18534

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Control food and you control people: Egypt top 10 importer of American crops

"According to data issued by the department, Egypt imported, according to data recorded in 2008, some 2,161 metric tons of wheat from the United States. It said this puts it atop the region in terms of reliance on American crops.

Egypt was ranked seventh on the list of top ten importers of American corn, which imported 2,438 tons of corn in 2008. Egypt also was ranked seventh on the list of importers of American soybeans in the same, with a total importing amounting to 772,000 tons."

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Lift visa ban on Palestinian farmers!

These farmers, whose olive oil is the only one in the world to carry the Fairtrade mark, have been invited by a UK social enterprise, Zaytoun, and were to be accompanied by a leading British NGO.

The shocking refusal to allow those producers from newly certified Fairtrade Cooperatives into the UK to attend events across England, Wales and Scotland, comes exactly one year after this:

Gordon Brown said he was "delighted" by the launch, marking the start of Fairtrade Fortnight, the annual campaign urging people to buy goods with the internationally recognised mark designed to ensure producers from poorer countries get a fair price and long-term security.

Brown said: "Olive oil production provides an essential part of the West Bank economy. In buying this oil, British shoppers wil be helping the farmers of Palestine to make a living."


Antoine Raffoul

عرب أبو عيد «لبنانيون منذ مائتي سنة» ومحرومون من الهوية Lebanese Bedouins: sans papiers

From Assafir Lebanon's Bedouins from the Abu `Eid tribe remain without citizenship...

In my garden, wild plants grow

 I have a tiny garden in Sinay, my village in Jabal `Amel, South Lebanon, but many wild plants grow spontaneously in it. This year, the rains have been plentiful and the weather mild: zaatar (above) Origanum syriacum is doing very well. Zoufa, (below) Micromeria julian which is harvested, dried and used in zhourat (tisane) has also sprouted. 

And for the first time: Irises...I have identified them as Iris sisyrinchium using Ahmad Houri's excellent website.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Perfect storm: the food security challenge

This is an important review article. The author's approach to GMOs will be subject of debate, and they do not really challenge the way markets operate (although they offer mild criticisms), but it is nevertheless a very good overview.

Food Security: The Challenge of Feeding 9 Billion People

H. Charles J. Godfray,1,* John R. Beddington,2 Ian R. Crute,3 Lawrence Haddad,4 David Lawrence,5James F. Muir,6 Jules Pretty,7 Sherman Robinson,8 Sandy M. Thomas,9 Camilla Toulmin10
Continuing population and consumption growth will mean that the global demand for food will increase for at least another 40 years. Growing competition for land, water, and energy, inaddition to the overexploitation of fisheries, will affect our ability to produce food, as will the urgent requirement to reduce the impact of the food system on the environment. The effects of climate change are a further threat. But the world can produce more food and can ensure that it is used more efficiently and equitably. A multifaceted and linked global strategy is needed to ensure sustainable and equitable food security, different components of which are explored here.

Food under siege

"Food and cooking in Gaza have changed radically in the last few years since the whole area has been under siege. The borders of this tiny strip are entirely closed, allowing only humanitarian shipments of basic foods to enter--flour, sugar, salt, oil, pulses--and even these are entering at a rate which, according to the UN, only covers about half of the population's most immediate needs. (And that calculation assumes a totally equal distribution of aid, unlikely in the best of circumstances.)"

From Maggie Schmitt's articles on Food in Gaza. Maggie is now working on a book on food in Gaza, weaving recipes, life stories and food economy under siege.

Gaza, Palestine

"It is possible that high nitrate levels have contributed to some shocking changes in the infant mortality rate (IMR) among Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and West Bank. IMR, widely used as an indicator of population health, has stalled among Palestinians since the 1990s and now shows signs of increasing. This is because the leading causes of infant mortality have changed from infectious and diarrheal diseases to prematurity, low birth weight and congenital malformations. These trends are alarming (and rare in the region), because infant mortality rates have been declining in almost all developing countries, including Iraq."

Sara Roy in The Nation

Saudi businessman solution to land grab

...let's grab it together!

"Al-Rasheed had a solution to the social and political implications the land buying deal may have in the host country. He said the deal should be on the basis of partnership between the private sectors of Saudi Arabia and the host country. “A joint venture company should be formed with Saudi side keeping 60 percent while the rest of the share may be floated in the market so that the public of the host country has an interest in it.” The role of the two governments should be limited to official work like in any other joint venture, he added."

Badael-Alternatives بدائل

In Al Akhbar today: Badael (Alternatives). My editorial: Why do we boycott? Maya Yaghi reports from the smokey road of Ghazieh ( anyone who drives south will know what I am talking about!), and Assaf Abu Rahhal reports from Al Arqub, South Lebanon on the special winter foods, stuff that I had never heard about...,18509

أمراض الاقتصاد العربي وكوارث الأزمة المالية

In Al Safir today, Arab economies and environmental challenges- Samir Al Tannir

Thursday, February 18, 2010

العودة للسيادة على الغذاء

بالنسبة لي، أراهن على اهمية العودة للسيادة على الغذاء كأحد أقصر الطرق للبدء بتحقيق ما نصبو إليه، وذلك عبر الاعتناء بالزراعة والأمن الغذائي، وقد عنيت به كل الدول التي استطاعت إرساء سيادتها. فإن التوجه للزراعة كان طرحا آيدولوجياً مهما اعتمدت عليه الحركة الصهيونية في إقامة دولتها المارقة. وقد كان اليهود البريطانيون قد أنشأوا في 1865 صندوقا لإقامة نشاط زراعي تمهيدا لزيادة الاستيطان ووجه وزير خارجيتهم بالمرستون عام 1839 كتابا إلى قنصل بريطانيا في القدس يأمره فيه بإقامة مزارع لليهود! وكان جل اهتمام الحركة الصهيونية نزع يد الفلاحين عن الأراضي ، والجدير بالذكر أن المزارعين في فلسطين أبدوا مقاومة شديدة ضد الاستيطان اليهودي؛ وبحسب الوعري فإن بريطانيا، ومعها الصهيونية، صّبت جام غضبها على طبقة الفلاحين والعمال في فلسطين لأنهم كانوا أكثر من وقف بقوة في وجه الزحف الاستيطاني الصهيوني.

فإذا أردنا أن نحمي بلادنا وندفع عنها المزيد من الإذلال والهيمنة، علينا أن نأكل مما نزرع، عبر تكامل عربي حقيقي متصدين بشراسة لشهوة المستعمرين التي تطال مواردنا وأمننا عبر سيناريوهات حديثة مكررة أحيانا ومبتكرة احيانا أخرى في سلسلة شهوات الحروب   
الصليبية المتتالية.

Challenges to farming in Lebanon

BEIRUT: Agriculture Minister Hussein Hajj Hassan urged farmers on Wednesday to improve the quality of their produce and reduce their costs to be able to compete with international markets.

“The quality and cost of our agricultural products must be improved for us to be able to compete on an international level,” he said. “We are faced with many challenges due to globalization and trade liberalization making it easier for products to easily reach every country in the world,” he added.

His remarks came during a conference organized by the Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences at the American University of Beirut (AUB) under the patronage of the Agriculture Ministry and in collaboration with the Faculty of Agriculture at the Lebanese University.

The conference aims at reviewing the challenges facing the agriculture sector in Lebanon and the measures that should be adopted in order to improve its performance.

Hassan said that the ministry has drafted a new strategy aimed at dealing with problems related to legislations.

“The legislation that we have is old and some of it lacks the necessary articles that should be present to ensure a better performance of this sector,” he added. “We have also reached an agreement with the government to raise the ministry’s budget and we have managed to double this budget for now, although the reforms that we planning to undertake need more money.”

Hassan said that the ministry was on the verge of a breakthrough in the establishment of a network funded by international financiers for guaranteeing a better quality in production at a lower cost.

He added that small farmers in Arab countries suffer from their inability to access outside markets. “To give a simple example, the production of 1 kilogram of citrus fruit cost around LL384 and the farmer sells it to the wholesaler for LL450 but it reaches the end consumer at LL1,000,” he said.

“There is a real problem in the marketing of agro-food products in Lebanon and this is partly due to farmers and their abstinence from joining unions and cooperatives to protect their rights.”

However, he added, farmers also have the right to get the necessary advice for the production techniques that allow them to produce good quality products. “This should be offered by the government.”

The head of the European Commission Delegation in Beirut Patrick Laurent previously told The Daily Star there was no real economic policy in the field of agriculture in Lebanon. “We have to start with the basics by giving farmers a legal and administrative status, meaning a system should be set up to define the needs of the farmers and then establish a mechanism of general registration for farmers, clarifying the benefits and obligations associated with this registration,” he said.

Moreover, Lebanese Farmers Syndicate president Antoine Hwayek has on many occasions criticized the successive post-1989 governments for failing to adopt reliable strategies capable of maintaining a profitable agricultural industry in Lebanon. He said that the gross revenues generated by this industry in its current miserable state reached $1.5 billion while it was able to generate some $3.5 billion yearly if the required infrastructure was made available.

“[The government] considers that the most profitable sectors in Lebanon are banking and service but never thought of the profits that could be generated from a healthy agricultural sector,” he said. “They are not aware of the fact that families belonging to 800 villages out of 1,000 in Lebanon depend on agriculture for their living.”

AUB assistant professor of Economics Jad Chaaban was among the speakers at the conference as well. He gave a few figures about the agriculture sector in Lebanon. Chabban said the agricultural sector contributed 6.8 percent of GDP in Lebanon and employed around 20 to 25 percent of labors whether directly or indirectly.

He said the importance of this sector in Lebanon stems from the fact that 50 percent of families in rural areas make their living out of agro-food production.

Chaaban also underlined the importance of boosting the quality of Lebanon’s agro-food production in order to be able to compete in the outside markets.

According to an economic report prepared by Bank Audi, Lebanon’s agricultural exports amounted to $69 million in the first half of 2009, up by 4.5 percent relative to the same period of 2008.

It stated that the Lebanese agricultural sector could be well diversified, thanks to the significant differences in altitude within the country. But Lebanese farmers are slowly learning how to make use of this advantage in order to improve the quality of their output.

The improvement in the quality of Lebanese products is very slow, which increases Lebanon’s dependency on agricultural imports.

The report said this was clearly demonstrated by the fact that agricultural imports, worth $719 million in the first half of 2009, accounted for almost 10 times the value of agricultural exports during the same period.

Syria's droughts affect 1 million people

"DEIR EZ ZOUR, 17 February 2010 (IRIN) - Drought in eastern and northeastern Syria has driven some 300,000 families to urban settlements such as Aleppo, Damascus and Deir ez Zour in search of work in one of the largest internal displacements in the Middle East in recent years.

The country’s agriculture sector, which until recently employed 40 percent of Syria’s workforce and accounted for 25 percent of gross domestic product, has been hit badly, but farmers themselves are worst affected, say aid officials.

In some villages, up to 50 percent of the population has left for nearby cities.

“Farmers who depend on only one crop are in trouble - they have nothing else to help them and they have to move,” said Abdulla Bin Yehia, a representative of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Damascus.

Those with livestock have seen the cost of feed rise 75 percent, according to FAO, resulting in the deaths of up to 80 percent of livestock on small and medium-sized farms.

More than one million people, already bordering on the poverty line because of low incomes, have been affected by the drought. Outdated and wasteful irrigation methods used by farmers are also contributing to the problem, experts said."

We get all sort of conflicting information about Syria. A few days ago, I posted about Syria having achieved food security for this year...

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Israel destroys agriculture in Gaza

"In 2008, the agricultural sector employed approximately 70,000 farmers, says PARC, including 30,000 farm laborers earning approximately five dollars per day.

One of the most productive industries some years ago, farming now yields the least and has become one of the most dangerous sectors in Gaza, due to Israeli firing, shelling and aggression against people in the border regions.

Of the 175,000 dunams of cultivable land, PARC reports 60 to 75,000 dunams have been destroyed during Israeli invasions and operations. The level of destruction from the last Israeli war on Gaza alone is vast, with 35 to 60 percent of the agricultural industry destroyed, according to the UN and World Health Organization. Gaza's sole agricultural college, in Beit Hanoun, was also destroyed."

From Electronic Intifada

The cemetery of Israeli tolerance

New from the Never Before Campaign: the Mamilla cemetery, victim of Israeli tolerance. (Thanks Rabi)

Monday, February 15, 2010

Zionist euphemisms: "sabotage network catalysts"

Here's the executive summary of the Haaretz article I have referred to a couple of posts below. Note that in this summary, the threat is presented as very real and potent while the article tried to downplay it.

5. The Reut Institute contends that the erosion in Israel's status internationally is driven by the coalescence of two parallel process:

  • The Resistance Network advancing the 'implosion strategy' that aims to precipitate Israel's internal collapse through a policy of 'overstretch': To achieve this, the Resistance Network increases the burden of the 'Occupation,' delegitimizes Israel, and develops an asymmetric use-of-force doctrine in the military arena and towards Israel's home front. These groups take their inspiration from the collapse of the former Soviet Union and apartheid South Africa.

  • The Delegitimization Network aiming to turn Israel into a pariah state by undermining its moral legitimacy and ultimately aspiring towards eliminating the ‘Zionist entity.'"

    and look here how there is a call for "sabotaging" anti-zionist activists: we may see mossad action soon.

    "On the one hand, Israel must identify and focus its efforts on global hubs of delegitimization (such as London, Toronto, Madrid, and the Bay Area). In this context, Israel should sabotage network catalysts and drive a wedge between its component parts, primarily between soft critics of Israeli policy and delegitimizers of its existence."
    (Thanks Rabi)

If you need reasons to delegitimize Israel...and you read Arabic

Nasri al Sayegh in Al Safir today: Why Israel should be delegitimized

تتمتع إسرائيل بمواصفات العدو النموذجي.. أنت، كعربي، لست بحاجة إلى براهين وتحليلات ومعاينات كثيرة، كي تستنتج أن إسرائيل عدو، بكامل المواصفات، وربما، أكثر من سواه بأشواط. فإسرائيل، أشهرت عداءها، منذ وجودها كفكرة وعقيدة، ومن ثم، عبر تجسدها في دولة، وفي ما بعد عبر مسيرتها العلنية.
ـ دولة قامت على الاحتلال الاستيطاني، والاجتثاث السكاني للفلسطيني.
ـ هي دولة لم تنشأ على ارض لها، بل على أرض لسواها.
ـ هي دولة، قامت بالقوة والعنف والتهجير.
ـ هي دولة، مستمرة في تكريس الاحتلال، وتأبيد الاستيطان وتوسيعه، حتى لحظة كتابة هذه السطور، وما بعدها بزمن غير يسير، كما هو متوقع.
ـ هي دولة عدوانية، احتلالية إخضاعية تدميرية، ولم تتوقف عن ممارسة القتل والحروب، منذ العام 1948. حتى ما بعد العام الراهن 2010.
ـ هي دولة تقتل المدنيين وترتكب المجازر. فليس في تاريخ اسرائيل، مثال عن حروب نظيفة: مارست التدمير المنهجي. القتل المعمّم. الاغتصاب الدائم... هجّرت دفعة واحدة 850 ألف فلسطيني. وعددهم اليوم في أشتات أكثر من أربعة ملايين.
ـ هي دولة مسلحة فوق طاقتها، اعتدت على سوريا والأردن ولبنان ومصر والعراق، أكثر من مرة. وعدد قتلاها بمئات الآلاف... آخرها مقتلة غزة، وقبلها مجازر قانا، وقبلها أيضاً قانا، وبين الاثنين: جنين وبلاطة.
ـ دولة، تنزف دماء العرب على أيديها، منذ الجلجلة الأولى في العام 1948.
ـ دولة تغتال، وتمارس السطو على الفضاء والماء والتراب والأموال، وتسطو على الذاكرة الدولية، فتجرّدها من كل المآثم، باستثناء ما يستدرج العالم إلى الوقوف معها بسبب الهولوكوست.
ـ دولة، تقدّم كل يوم، على جعل هيكل سليمان المزعوم، الوريث الديني والتاريخي للمسجد الأقصى.
دولة، بهذه المواصفات، تمتلك قوام العدو بالكامل، ومع ذلك، فإن «العفو العربي»، من قبل أنظمة المردة والتخلي، جعل اسرائيل، الدولة المخدومة، من قبل أنظمة الخدمة والرعاية، التي تربّت على أن تكون، محتضنة من وارث الانتدابين الفرنسي والبريطاني: الولايات المتحدة الأميركية.

دمشق: وصلنا لمرحلة الاكتفاء من المنتجات الزراعية

أعلن وزير الزراعة السوري عادل سفر أن بلاده وصلت إلى مرحلة الاكتفاء الذاتي وتصدير فائضها من المنتجات الزراعية إلى الدول العربية بعد أن كانت تقوم باستيراد احتياجاتها من المحاصيل الزراعية.
ونقلت صحيفة «تشرين» أمس عن سفر تشديده، خلال جلسة حوار في منتدى البعث في درعا، على الدعم الذي يحظى به القطاع الزراعي في سوريا التي توصلت إلى «تحقيق الأمن الغذائي والوصول إلى مرحلة الاكتفاء الذاتي وتصدير الفائض من الإنتاج الزراعي إلى الدول العربية»، موضحا انه «ونتيجة لذلك تكون سوريا قد صدرت قسما كبيرا من إنتاجها الزراعي بعد أن كانت تستورد قسما كبيرا من احتياجاتها للكثير من المحاصيل الزراعية».
وأشارت الصحيفة إلى أن سفر حاول بذلك «تبديد مخاوف أثيرت مؤخرا حول تصريحات نسبت إليه بأن سوريا ستكون من البلدان المستوردة للغذاء». وأوضح سفر أن التوصل إلى مرحلة الاكتفاء كان «بفضل تطور الإنتاج في وحدة المساحة القابلة للزراعة في سوريا والتي لا تتجاوز ستة ملايين هكتار لكل المحاصيل الزراعية».
من جهة ثانية، قال وزير النفط السوري سفيان علاو، لصحيفة «البعث»، ان نتائج تقرير اعدته شركة «شل» للحلول الدولية بطلب من الوزارة حول تقييم واقع صناعة التكرير في مصفاتي حمص وبانياس اظهر وجود «هدر يصل الى 185 مليون دولار سنويا».

Syria reaches food self sufficiency and achieves food security (ا ف ب)

Delegitimize Israel: a new political action model

"Israel is facing a global campaign of delegitimization, according to a report by the Reut Institute, made available to the cabinet on Thursday. The Tel Aviv-based security and socioeconomic think tank called on ministers to treat the matter as a strategic threat.

The report cites anti-Israel demonstrations on campuses, protests when Israeli athletes compete abroad, moves in Europe to boycott Israeli products, and threats of arrest warrants for Israeli leaders visiting London.

Reut says the campaign is the work of a worldwide network of private individuals and organizations. They have no hierarchy or overall commander, but work together based on a joint ideology - portraying Israel as a pariah state and denying its right to exist." (Thanks Muna)

And don't forget to join the Israeli Apartheid Week in Beirut and in all other cities! (see previous post)

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Israeli Apartheid Week in Beirut

Israeli Apartheid Week in Beirut: Join it!

Banana Republic

The United Fruit Co. by Pablo Neruda

Reposted from Socialist Stories (Thanks Marcy)

The United Fruit Co.
By Pablo Neruda

When the trumpets had sounded and all
was in readiness on the face of the earth,
Jehova divided his universe:
Anaconda, Ford Motors,
Coca-Cola Inc., and similar entities:
the most succulent item of all,
The United Fruit Company Incorporated
reserved for itself: the heartland
and coasts of my country,
the delectable waist of America.
They rechristened their properties:
the “Banana Republics” –
and over the languishing dead,
the uneasy repose of the heroes
who harried that greatness,
their flags and their freedoms,
they established an opera bouffe:
they ravished all enterprise,
awarded the laurels like Caesars,
unleashed all the covetous, and contrived
the tyrannical Reign of the Flies –
Trujillo the fly, and Tacho the fly,
the flies called Carias, Martinez,
Ubico—all of them flies, flies
drunk with the blood of their marmalade
vassalage, flies buzzing drunkenly
on the populous middens:
the fly-circus fly and the scholarly
kind, case-hardened in tyranny.

Then in the bloody domain of the flies
The United Fruit Company Incorporated
unloaded with a booty of coffee and fruits
brimming its cargo boats, gliding
like trays with the spoils
of our drowning dominions.

And all the while, somewhere, in the sugary
hells of our seaports,
smothered by gases, an Indian
fell in the morning:
a body spun off, an anonymous
chattel, some numeral tumbling,
a branch with its death running out of it
in the vat of the carrion, fruit laden and foul.


This week in Badael in Al Akhbar. My editorial: the Farce. Arab people in the early 20th century joined civil society organizations, the early NGOs, as a way into politics, in order to fight the Ottoman Empire and then the Western Empire. Arab people are now joining NGOs as a way out of politics, to be fed by the Empire: A Marxian farce. Muhammad Muhsin tells the story of bread: hard work and sweat, and Hammana celebrates its fasoulia by Amer malaeb.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Zionism: theft of land, food, culture and worker's money

"Over the past four decades Israel has defrauded Palestinians working inside Israel of more than US$2 billion (Dh7.4bn) by deducting from their salaries contributions for welfare benefits to which they were never entitled, Israeli economists revealed this week.

A new report, “State Robbery”, says the “theft” continued even after the Palestinian Authority was established in 1994 and part of the money was supposed to be transferred to a special fund on behalf of the workers.According to information supplied by Israeli officials, most of the deductions from the workers’ pay were invested in infrastructure projects in the Palestinian territories – a presumed reference to the massive state subsidies accorded to the settlements.

Nearly 50,000 Palestinians from the West Bank are working in Israel – following the easing of restrictions on entering Israel under the “economic peace” promised by Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister – and continue to have such contributions docked from their pay.

Complicit in the deception, the report adds, is the Histadrut, the Israeli labour federation, which levies a monthly fee on Palestinian workers, even though they are not entitled to membership and are not represented in labour disputes."

Big Business Has No Solutions; Now What?

A legal complaint from agribusiness giant ADM has resulted in the removal from Youtube of a fake video of ADM's CEO making over-honest pronouncements. (The video is still available here, here, and, for download and reposting, here.)


In Badael today in Al Akhbar: My editorial: Banana Republic on the opening of the new Nestle cafe in Lebanon. Kamel Jaber wrote about the excellent season for the harvesting of wild edible plants we have experienced this year, and Muhammad Muhsin about a short history of coffee...

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Sinay: the incredibly shrinking village

Nearly 3 years ago, my dear friend Yasmine Ryan published this article in Scoop about land and land rights in Sinay, my village in Jabal `Amel. In a nutshell she said that the feudal past of the village makes it such tat the people who work the land do not own it. Instead, it belongs to absentee landlords. She echoed the concerns of local people who asked themselves, back then: "what would happen if the absentee landlords sell the land and we get evicted from it? We have been using it for centuries to produce our food and fodder and to construct our livelihoods, But we have no rights over it. We will have nothing left but migration".

Well this year, their worries have become reality: a parcel of more than 2 km2 of farmland was sold to one investor who has kindly asked the farmers of Sinay to stop using the land and who has placed barbed wire and made investments in intensive banana farming under covered structures. The farmland of Sinay has dropped by one third, and about that many farmers have stopped working the land: "It does not make sense anymore to toil when the land can be taken from you any day" one of them told me.

This is what the landscape in Sinay looks like: extensive cereal and olive cropping on rolling hills of marly limestone soil

And this is what they are turning it into: Plastic houses with cash crops intensively farmed on soils substrate transported from the coast to cover the marl

Below is how I want to remember it: The Shawamer (Land of the Wild Fennel), the olive groves that once belonged to my grand father. My uncle still owns a small part, the non terraced plot on the left of the picture. Here they could own because it is in the cadastral zone of Ansar, the adjacent town. Ownership was impossible in Sinai for a very long time because the parcels were too large and hence not affordable to farmers.


"Alfafa is one of the major food sources for certified organic animals, not only because of its quality as forage, but because Monsanto's patented genes are already found in 95% of soybeans and 80% of corn. If the USDA lets Monsanto sell its new alfalfa, it will inevitably overtake organic alfalfa crops through the natural pollination process. [3] As a result organic farmers may be feeding their cows genetically modified food.

Just like its corn and soy, Monsanto's alfalfa is designed to tolerate its leading herbicide: Roundup. We can't allow Monsanto's greed to take-over one more crop. The consequences to our choice as consumer, to biological diversity, to the survival of our small and organic farmers depends are too dire.

Monsanto's domination of our food must stop. For the USDA to shrug it off like nobody cares is to add insult to injury. We only have two weeks to submit our comments.The fight for FRESH food will continue, and with your help we'll make it clear that people care about the food they eat." (Thanks Ana)

Let's show the USDA and Monsanto that people want food free from Monsanto's modifications. Write your comments to the USDA now and say no to genetically modified alfalfa.

Syria's droughts and politics

"The lack of rain has sucked farmers into a vicious circle. Because of the drought they have to buy fodder to feed their livestock, but the failure of crops has driven up cereal prices. And because so many farmers are being forced to sell their sheep and goats, livestock prices have plummeted. "It's always the same people who are suffering," Mr bin Yehia says."

I don't want to deny that there has been recurrent droughts in the Levant, but last year was very good in Lebanon, above average in North Iraq; and this year we are way above the yearly average both in the Bekaa in Lebanon and in Erbil, in Iraqi Kurdistan, where it is raining torrents as I write. Syria is exactly in the middle of both Bekaa and Erbil, and unless the rains are anti-Syrian, it looks to me like it could be a rainy year there too. It is likely that this article was written a few weeks ago, when the region went through 4 weeks of stable clear and unseasonally warm weather. But journalists are always looking for something that links climate change, droughts, water, and the Middle East, and they may reach conclusions a bit too quickly. And of course, Syria, which has been "on the verge of economic and social collapse" since I learned how to read Western newspapers, but which has not fallen yet and doesn't look like it is going to fall anytime soon, is always a good topic: a rejectionist country, part of the axis of evil. Popular discontent is always a good topic to report on from Syria.

An edible history of humanity

This looks like an interesting book, but look how the reviewer explains colonialism as a reaction to "Muslim monopoly"

"Though these products came from India, Indonesia and China, the spice trade had always been controlled by Arabs, who spun ludicrous tales about the origins of their wares to throw gullible Europeans off the scent as to the true source. To some extent, this Arab monopoly was circumvented by a land route to the East, controlled by Mongols. Once the Muslim powers cut off this route, marked by the fall of Constantinople in 1453, Europeans had either to accept the Muslim monopoly or find a new route to the East. The result was an explosion of exploration." (Thanks D.)

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Zionism: theft of land, food and culture

"A self-described “Jewish music label and promotion company” in the United States has begun marketing a version of the traditional Arab headdress complete with blue embroidered stars of David, the symbol of the state of Israel."

Order Tales of the Badia

Tales of the Badia is now on Amazon. Order here

Pictures I took from the plane yesterday

Above, the eastern slope of Mount Lebanon, the Bekaa, and the Anti Lebanon with its snowy summits

Below: Mount Lebanon, the summits